Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, which prevented a full criminal investigation and trial. He felt it would help to heal the country, which had been through assassinations, riots and the divisive Vietnam war. But the pardon had the unintended consequence of creating an impression that those in the highest office really aren’t accountable to the public if their actions violate the law.
Four years later the Reagan administration picked up right where Nixon’s had left off, and got caught. Other select insiders made the decision not to pursue Reagan.
As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be “good for the country” to put the public through another impeachment trial.
At a time when thousands were being sent away for years for smoking a joint or doing a line, the country was learning that things really are different for those at the very top.
Bush1 then pardoned everyone involved, especially those being pressured by Lawrence Walsh to testify against him for his own possibly criminal part in it. The public got the message clearly that time.
So by the time Clinton took office the public was ready to believe that all of the country’s leaders are corrupt and pay no price for it. The conservatives had an opening to demand that a President finally be held to account. It’s the old Seeing the Forest Rule: Republicans accuse others of what they are in fact doing themselves. They accused Clinton of everything, but the investigations found nothing. They impeached him anyway. Now the public understood just who the rules were for and not for. After what Nixon, Reagan and Bush1 had gotten away with, Clinton didn’t even have to break any rules, yet he was impeached.
And so here we are. Bush2 can do anything with impunity – and says so with a smirk. His cronies loot, lie and steal. The public and especially the Washington insider class are conditioned to accept that this is the way things are done. All partly tracable back to Ford’s subversion of accountability. A mistake. A big one.
Let’s learn from Ford’s mistake. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE! Demand that the actions of those in power in the last six years are investigated and any crimes discovered are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Let’s set the country and democracy back on course.